I have been given extraordinary opportunities in my life to live my “ifs”. Supportive people that have allowed me to jump into opportunity headfirst have surrounded me. I often found the pool too shallow for this approach and taken many life concussions, wondering, “What was a doing here? Why did I do that?” The great people in my life from my parents to Doug Johnson to Rick Krieger to Richard Kaung among others have picked me up and taught me life lessons I shall forever be thankful for.
Looking back 10 years, from afar my life seems pretty good. I got to marry the woman I wanted, I have savings and no debt, I get to open-ended travel the world. The net of my life experience is pretty good, but what few people have seen is the spectrum of my experiences. The last decade has been filled with failure, mistakes and regrets. This is because I have lived my “ifs”, this is because I have chosen to take risks. I didn’t do what I should have done, I have gone against good advice and made a fool of myself a couple dozen too many times.
Choosing to live my “ifs” has never been easy. My omnipresent smile hides the struggle against what I feel I “should” do. People have not necessarily articulated what I “should” do, but I know that I am living a life of non-conformity. Theoretically, it would have been so much easier to take the road well traveled.
What if I had followed my shoulds?
- I would have gone to a better college.
- I would be an engineer, probably chemical (my original major); or I would have become an investment banker.
- I would not be married to Erica.
- I would not have traveled as extensively as I have. Specifically, engineering wouldn’t have presented me the opportunity to study abroad as I did.
- I would own a house/condo.
- I may have a child by now.
- I would have a graduate degree or be working on one.
Materially, my alternatives are pretty good, would my life be that bad? No. Would my life be more stable? Definitely. Would I be happy? Possibly. Would I have regrets and wonder what could have been? Absolutely.
The last question is essential; even choosing alternatives I would still wonder about what could have been. There are infinite points in life that I made decisions to take one path instead of another. There was never certainty in result and you have to make decisions with the information you have at the time. In retrospect, many of the decisions I made I would have made differently, if I knew what I know now. I didn’t and couldn’t, but good or bad, I know I made the choices that led to who I am today. I feel the alternative would have been waking up one day and thinking, “How did I get here? “
Hindsight will always be 20/20 and we will dwell on the things that didn’t work out. I certainly do, when I say my last decade was filled with mistakes, I realize I can’t dwell on what did or didn’t work, I can just take those life lessons with me going forward and use them to better inform future decisions. What I know now is that seizing opportunity, even if it didn’t work out, was better than not trying.
The funny part about if I had chosen what I “should” have path in life I would be much more limited than I am today. I probably would have bought real estate in 2006 and now be underwater. If I had a child I would be committed to caring for them and not able to chase as many opportunities. I would be creating my personal balance sheet in a red instead of black pen. Most importantly, I would not have met the mentors who have taught me so much.
So here I am, living my if, not knowing where my adventure will lead, but if the past decade has taught me anything it has been to be comfortable with the certainty of uncertainty. This trip may not end well, but I will never have to look back and wonder, “what if I took a trip around the world?”